Today, Monday 11 April, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sophie Wilmès, was in Luxembourg to attend a Foreign Affairs Council meeting. The discussions were devoted to the current war in Ukraine and the latest developments in that regard.

International Criminal Court

The day began with a breakfast meeting of European ministers, in the presence of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Mr Karim Khan. Belgium is a party to the Rome Statute and supports the Court’s work, as evidenced by the meeting last year with the outgoing Prosecutor, Ms Fatou Bensouda, organised by Belgium in the context of the Belgian Presidency of the Benelux. In March 2022, Belgium joined other states parties in calling for an investigation into all atrocities committed in Ukraine. During the discussions, the Deputy Prime Minister recalled the importance Belgium attaches to the independence of the Court’s work, which must also have sufficient resources at its disposal to carry out its work. Belgium is determined to strengthen its support for the Court to facilitate its work. Regarding the investigation into the situation in Ukraine and in light of the many initiatives, Sophie Wilmès, emphasised the need for clear and efficient organisation in that regard.

War in Ukraine

During the working session on Ukraine, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs shared with the EU ministers his conclusions from his trip to Kyiv last week. Belgium remains in full solidarity with Ukraine, which will be reflected in continued support for the Ukrainians, with an emphasis on military equipment. Belgium has approved the third tranche of 500 million euros to be allocated to the European Peace Facility.

In terms of consular affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently making preparations for the reopening of the Belgian embassy in Kyiv.

The Deputy Prime Minister again called for a continuation of diplomatic efforts to convince other nations of the world to pressure Russia for a ceasefire and a withdrawal of troops from Ukraine. Alongside this is the issue of Russian propaganda, which is very active on social media, but also in high-level contacts between Russia and third countries. Sophie Wilmès: “Russia does not hesitate to use lies in order to justify its military aggression and invasion. Russia is now trying to influence our partners by saying that the risks to global food security are linked to European sanctions and not to the war in Ukraine. However, it is Russia that has closed the ports on the Sea of Azov, thereby blocking grain exports. We must not content ourselves with applying concrete solutions to combat the risks of imbalances – such as by working on agricultural production and diversifying our security of supply – but we must also bring about operational strategies to invalidate the Russian narrative. Additional efforts are needed.” On this point, Belgium favours a proactive strategy on the part of the European Commission.

Through its Deputy Prime Minister, Belgium reiterated its support for the fifth package of sanctions against Russia and Belarus; at the same time, it advocated looking ahead to the next set of sanctions now, without taboos, and taking account of the legislative loopholes that still need to be closed. These sanctions should be in keeping with a long-term perspective and therefore be sustainable on a long-term basis.

As in her intervention at NATO, Sophie Wilmès stressed the need to take into account the needs of the EU’s partner countries situated in its neighbourhood and in the vicinity of Russia.


Mali was one of the other topics discussed by European ministers. Belgium is monitoring the situation very closely. Our country is observing a rapid deterioration of the situation in Mali, particularly in terms of respect for human rights, as the EU and its Member States are forced to withdraw. This development is not unrelated to the presence of the Russian group Wagner. This is why our country advocates maintaining a European presence in Mali as much as possible and for more substantial support to be provided for national judicial mechanisms, in the name of the effort to combat impunity. More generally, in terms of the fight against terrorism, Belgium called for a strategic reflection on the strengthening of a stability zone south of the Sahel.

NATO ministerial meeting on 6-7 April: conclusions

On Wednesday 6 April and Thursday 7 April, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sophie Wilmès, participated in an extraordinary NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels. This two-day meeting focused on the ongoing war in Ukraine, the latest developments and the challenges related to that conflict that directly affect the Alliance, especially in the long term.

On Wednesday, the Deputy Prime Minister participated in a working meeting between the three Benelux countries and the three Baltic States. Sophie Wilmès underlined Belgium’s renewed commitment to protect Baltic airspace with its fighter planes. This was followed by a working dinner on NATO’s strategic concept to be adopted at the next summit in Madrid. Sophie Wilmès: “For Belgium, this document, which gives direction to the Alliance’s strategy for the coming years, must take full account of the geopolitical and security developments resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This will make the exercise relevant. The complementarity between the European Union and NATO must also be taken into account. The adoption of the Strategic Compass and the commitment of Member States to invest more and invest more effectively in defence are heading in that direction.” Referring to the “Women, Peace and Security Agenda,” the Deputy Prime Minister stressed that the common values of allies and the protection of the most vulnerable must also be at the heart of the NATO project, especially in light of the atrocities in Bucha. 

Finally, Belgium will play an active part in the DIANA initiative, the North Atlantic Defence Innovation Accelerator, with a number of selected R&D centres and an incubator.

On Thursday, the first working meeting took place in the presence of nine partners, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Mr Dmytro Kuleba. The four Asia-Pacific partners – Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand – as well as Finland, Sweden, Georgia and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs also took part in the meeting. Discussions focused on the impact of the invasion of Ukraine on the global balance of power, and in particular on China’s ambiguous role in this conflict. Through its Deputy Prime Minister, Belgium stressed the need to step up efforts on the international stage to convince other nations to emphatically condemn Russia’s actions and not leave them without consequences. Sophie Wilmès: “in light of what is currently happening in Ukraine, a failure to clearly denounce this war amounts de facto to siding with the aggressor. What happened at the UN General Assembly in March was unprecedented: a broad coalition of 141 states deplored Russian aggression and called, by means of a resolution, for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine. This coalition should not only be continued, but expanded. Our diplomatic efforts must also go in that direction, in Africa, Asia and in South America. It is also time for China to abandon ambiguity.”

In the afternoon, a second session limited to the Allies took stock of the support being provided to Ukraine. Belgium supports NATO’s current approach of not being a party to the conflict. This should not prevent the Allies from individually providing all necessary support to uphold Ukraine’s right to defend itself. Sophie Wilmès expressed Belgium’s desire to strengthen assistance to Ukraine: “Our country provides bilateral humanitarian assistance and non-lethal and lethal equipment to Ukraine and wishes to continue this assistance, in the name of the right to self-defence. Through Minister Kuleba, we have heard the needs of the Ukrainians and these are being thoroughly analysed by the Allies. More generally, we also need to adjust and strengthen our deterrent position.” Although Russia’s actions call for strong decisions – especially in terms of sanctions – and make dialogue increasingly difficult, Belgium underlined the necessity to avoid breaking off all channels of communication so as to leave room for diplomacy at all times.

NATO has decided to increase its political and practical support to its partner countries Moldova, Georgia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to strengthen their resilience.